Stephen King discusses ‘Lisey’s Story’ and why it was a true passion project

Julianne Moore and Clive Owens star in "Lisey's Story."
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By María Estévez, MWN 

The horror drama miniseries ‘Lisey’s Story,’ based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, is streaming now on Apple TV+. The disturbing, intimate story was inspired by King’s near-death encounter and begged the question, “What effect would the author’s tragic demise have on his real-life wife and family?”

Metro sat down with the 73-year-old author to learn more. 

How did you come up with this story?

I had double pneumonia and I came very close to stepping out. And during the convalescence, I was in the hospital for about three weeks, and when it was clear I was going to get better, my wife decided that she was going to totally clean out my office and change it around and make everything new again for me. And when I came back home Tabby said to me, “Don’t go in your office, you won’t like it.” And that’s because it wasn’t done yet. And I said, “Well, okay, I’m not going to go to my office.” And then the first thing I did was to go into my office. And it was totally empty.  And I was still feeling very rocky and I was on a lot of different medications, and I thought, this is what this room would look like after I die. ‘Lisey’s Story’ came from that. 

Do you wish you could go back and bring a personal touch to some of your past projects? 

Well, actually, ‘Lisey’s Story’ means a lot to me because it’s the one that I love best.  It’s a story about love, marriage and creative impulse. And it’s also got a kick-ass villain in it, which I liked a lot. So my idea is to be all the way in as much as possible or be all the way out. And there’ve been a lot of projects and my idea is: go ahead, step back, and write books. Maybe something will come along that I really love, a passion project, and this was that. This was a passion project.

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What do you think of your legacy?

Well, as far as legacy goes, I’m mostly concerned with the story at the time. And this is something that Pablo [Larraín], Julianne [Moore] and Clive [Owen] all worked on together, so let them answer that.

So at this point, do you still have any books or stories that you would consider potentially unfilmable?

Unfilmable… I don’t think anything is unfilmable now. I talked with J.J. Abrams a lot about a possible anthology series called Tiny Horrors. We talked about things that were really, really scary.

Was it a challenge to adapt ‘Lisey’s Story’?

‘Lisey’s Story’ was particularly challenging. It goes through so many different levels of remembrance and Pablo was able to keep that in pretty much of a straight line.

We’ve seen a lot of your book adaptations hit the small screens in recent years. A lot of your characters appear in TV shows. Do you have a favorite portrayal of one of your characters?

I loved Julianne Moore and Clive Owen in ‘Lisey’s Story.’ I think that they were fantastic. And there’s also a guy named Dane DeHaan who plays in the series. I don’t want to say too much about him, but I loved his performance. Those are some of my favorite. Of course, I liked Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith. There are a lot of different people that I really loved in some of the different things. James Franco in 11.22.63 was fantastic.  

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Is your wife comfortable with this story?

She kind of says, ‘Okay, I understand what you’re doing here and I know that you have to follow your creative muse. But leave me out of it as much as you can. Fictionalize these people as much as you can and let’s step back from anything that’s too personal.’ So, I try to do that. I try to satisfy both sides of it, the reality side and the fictional one. And it worked out pretty well. And, certainly, Julianne and Clive are Scott and Lisey, they’re not Steve and Tabby. So it worked out. 

Would you ever write a piece about the COVID-19 pandemic?

I think coronavirus in itself presents real challenges for the writer and for the filmmaker. And there’s a question about going forward. But as far as the political climate, the racial climate, all those things inform my work, but the thing that I concentrate on most is the story. There’s a scene where we see Lisey come into a hospital room and she’s wearing the mask, and I just thought to myself, my God, this is what we’re all doing now.

Your stories have been so frequently adapted, but you have worked a lot with Bad Robot. What makes that partnership work?

I’ve got a creative relationship with J.J. Abrams that goes back to ‘Lost’ when Entertainment Weekly put us together. And we had a talk about that show and a bunch of us went out and saw a scary movie. And I’ve stayed in touch with J.J. since then. I met Ben Stephenson in the course of writing ‘Lisey’s Story’ and he was terribly encouraging. And they’ve done some other things that were based on my work or related to my work like ‘Castle Rock’ and ‘11.22.63.’ They’ve got a great organization.  They give great Christmas presents at the end of the year. And I just love working with them. It’s been a great relationship.

‘Lisey’s Story’ is now streaming on Apple TV+.

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